Identity Of Buyer Not Revealed During Zoom Meeting Tuesday Night But College Exec. V.P. David Jennings Said He Hopes To Reveal The Buyer Within A Week
By Tina Traster
Nyack College Executive V.P. David Jennings told 100 people participating in a Zoom meeting Tuesday there is one prospective buyer for 22 parcels on the South Nyack college campus and he anticipates a contract with the for-profit buyer will be signed within a week.
However, he did not reveal the buyer’s identity, which was the single greatest concern and frustration of Zoom participants.
“Why is this a secret?” asked resident Vicki Schwaid. “Why isn’t Nyack College sharing this?”
The question was posed repeatedly, with participants saying lack of transparency over the buyer created an atmosphere of mistrust and unease between village residents and Nyack College, which is the applicant seeking a special permit to allow for residential use of the existing buildings. The buyer is not the one seeking the changes.
The college is hoping to sell the property to an unnamed buyer, who sources say is a local residential developer. The developer, in turn, would potentially sell off single-family houses on the campus and re-purpose dormitories and existing buildings into multi-family housing.
The college has an existing special permit for its use as a residential college. However a new or amended special permit is needed to alter that use to allow for anything other than what it’s been used for.
The application says “there are no plans to alter the exterior of any of the existing buildings or expand the footprint.” The application also says “this special permit amendment does not require any site plan development.”
Jennings said the college has had “nearly a dozen” offers, even higher ones, but wants to sell to this “for profit” buyer who will maintain the character of the campus.
“Who is going to purchase this campus?” said Kerrie Kiernan. “We can’t move forward unless this is disclosed. We expect transparency. We live here. It comes down to quality of life.”
Speaking on behalf of the college, attorney Lino Sciarretta said a residential community would bring tax rateables and “shoppers and diners” to the Nyacks. He mistakenly referred to the college as a “commuter college,” suggesting that current traffic loads would not be significantly different. However, Nyack College is a residential college. Zoom participants stressed the importance of studying traffic and environmental impacts.
“What are the short-term and long-term impacts of this project?” asked John Altieri. “The Village should not rush this decision. It may need to wait until the pandemic passes.”
The college has been for sale for more than a year. It has 22 parcels on 107 acres with nearly 4.5 million square feet of land area. Most of the college campus is situated in the Village of South Nyack but some of the campus sits on portions of Upper Nyack, Orangetown and Clarkstown.
Out of the 22 parcels, nearly half are currently being used as housing. The application claims that administrative offices can “easily be converted back to residential use.”
There are also ongoing discussions between Nyack College and buyers regarding the rest of the campus, which is open land but is zoned for residential use. Sources say a national builder may be interested in developing the land for senior housing. The issue was not raised during the Zoom meeting.
Jennings did say he “feel terrible” about hiding the identity of the buyer. He said lawyers are still hashing out the contract and he hopes to reveal the buyer by May 15th. The legal team previously said the College was hoping to close on the contract by June 25th. It is unclear whether the final sale of the property is contingent on the issuance of the special permit, though it is certainly a strong possibility.
Village of South Nyack’s Chapter 330 Article XVIII code has provisions requiring a contract purchaser to reveal its identity. The code says there’s a critical and compelling need for all applicants, including contract purchasers to disclose their identities. Other provisions within the code say that an application that refuses or fails to provide the information required shall have its application suspended pending compliance.
Village Mayor Bonnie Christian said there will be plenty of time to learn who the buyer is. Village Board Attorney Rob Knoebel said the application would first come to the planning board.
The Zoom technology did not allow for more than 100 to be in the meeting though many more tried to join in, and some who later did were angry that a public meeting had a cap.
Resident Jennifer Rothschild complained that the Village could not call the Zoom meeting “public” if it was capped at 100 participants.
“I don’t know why it was set up this way,” Rothschild said. “You need to redo this whole thing.”
A recording of the meeting will be available on the Village’s website.